Rising fuel prices in Pakistan can be an opportunity for the humble bicycle to shine. But 45 per cent Pakistanis do not know how to ride one, according to a survey by Gallup & Gilani Pakistan, released on 16 March.
The Pakistani affiliate of Gallup International arrived at this conclusion based on a sample size of 764 men and women in urban and rural areas of all four provinces.
What’s more, the cycle seems to be losing its popularity, going by past survey results. A similar survey by Gallup in November 2020 found that bicycle ownership had fallen from 38 per cent to 10 per cent across Pakistan over a 15-year period between 2004 and 2020. The decline was especially steep after 2008.
According to the survey, Sindh had the lowest household bicycle ownership at 4 per cent in 2018-19, followed by Balochistan at 8 per cent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 10 per cent and Punjab at 12 per cent.
From a demographic point of view, the survey found that only 11 per cent of rural and 8 per cent of urban Pakistani households owned bicycles in 2018-19.
Women and bicycles
Among conservative societies such as Pakistan, the two-wheeler is not seen as an appropriate form of transport for women. Women who defy this unwritten code face pushback from the public in the form of harassment from other drivers.
A 2019 report by NPR had quoted a cleric who ran an Islamic seminary as saying that young women riding a bicycle in public led to “moral corruption”.
Writing for the Metro UK last July, Canada-based independent journalist Rahma Khan recalled how a young girl riding a bicycle was frowned upon during her childhood in Pakistan.
“From simple things such as learning to swim or riding a bike, to strictly not talking about my monthly menstruation cycle with any male member of the family, even as a child I faced a lot of restrictions,” she wrote.